|Step 1. Determine Objectives and Time Frame Determining what you want to be able to do (how proficient do you want to be? do you need any specialized vocabulary for a specific field of study/work?) and how long you have to do it (a few days? weeks? months?) is very important. If you only have a few days, then maybe a phrase book, or even better, an electronic interpreter that you can carry with you would be the best thing.|
Even better, if you can afford it, would be to hire a translator perhaps (they can be surprisingly inexpensive in many Latin American countries–maybe $20 a day or so).
Step 2. Choose a Home Study Program
This is going to be the main tool you’ll be using to teach yourself Spanish, and frankly there’s just no way you’re going to be able to do this on your own, especially if you have a very limited amount of time, without spending any money, so choose wisely and just do it. Personally, for someone who has a very limited amount of time I think Synergy Spanish (click here for their site) is the best choice–plus it’s only $49 which fits my budget nicely– (click here to see my review of it) because all they do is take 138 of the most commonly spoken words, show you how to combine them effectively over 68 audio lessons (only 10 minutes each) and you end up being able to communicate very effectively at a basic level where you can handle most day-to-day conversations and interactions. It only takes maybe 1-2 weeks to complete, so it’s great for those in a rush.
There’s lots of other programs out there, though, many of which will teach you much more Spanish, but the point is that they’re going to take several months to do so, so it just depends on your time frame. If you’ve got a couple months, then I’d probably recommend Learning Spanish Like Crazy, and if you’re going for fluency and have maybe a year or so to work on it, then I’d say Platiquemos. It all just depends.
Step 3. Watch Those Telenovelas (Spanish language soap operas)!! Listen and Repeat, Listen and Repeat!
This is a GREAT one that most people don’t even know about, and it shouldn’t cost you a dime if you have cable or satellite–I can almost guarantee you that you get these on some channel; you probably have an all-Spanish channel and don’t even know it. Just turn on that telenovela every day (I’d recommend right after you finish your Spanish lesson for the day so it’s all fresh in your head and you’re already warmed up), turn on the English subtitles which are almost always available, and then simply follow along as best you can–REPEAT what the speakers say, I’ll say it again: REPEAT AFTER THE NATIVE SPEAKERS. This is how almost all Spanish self-study courses work, right? You just repeat after the native speaker–well just do the same here! And you’ve got subtitles on so you know what you’re saying when you do it! This will do so much for your Spanish so that after a week of it you’ll be amazed how much you’ve learned AND CAN ACTUALLY USE–why can you use it? Because you’ve been speaking it, right? Right??? That’s just so important, the more you speak the more you learn!
Additional Reading and Further Resources:
Recommended Online Course
Read our Review of Learning Spanish Like Crazy.